Guardini, brainy sprinter wins in Qatar. Renshaw crowned.

Renshaw owns Qatar.

Andrea Guardini, a man who sprints with his head.

The Italian beat countryman Francesco Chicchi in the final stage of the Tour of Qatar with a powerful burst of speed and perhaps more important, flashes of intelligence. He planned his attack, never panicked when boxed in and remembered some advice from Chicchi himself.

“300 metres out I was still back in 15th or 20th place, but I remembered that Chicchi told me that he was well back 300 metres out last year too, it’s a strange finish,” Guardini said. “I believed until the end, and little by little the riders in front fell away as there was a head wind and I managed to go on the right hand side.”

Guardini, who dominated the sprint stages of January’s Tour of Langkawi, is also smart enough to recognize the shortest distance between two points, a handy skill for a fast man. “The finish was slightly curving to the right, so I had a slightly shorter path by going down the right hand side,” he said. The Italian prodigy is just 21 years old but is clearly a sharp guy.

The riders for Farnese Vini – Neri Sottoli was boxed tightly behind Theo Bos (Rabobank) but chilled at high speed until Bos moved off the barrier. Then he put his head down and hit the gas. Sheriff Chicchi took second and Bos nabbed third — and Mark Renshaw, he won the whole damn thing.

Renshaw won the Big Q, the Races to the Oasis, Le Grand Sand Dune, the Duel in the Desert over Heinrich Haussler. No final shots were really fired by the Garmin-Cervelo team and Renshaw made a point of sweeping up some intermediate sprint points. Haussler finished eight second down and just out of ochre or gold depending on your color definition.

“I didn’t expect to be in the position of winning the Tour of Qatar at the start of the week,” he said. “Unfortunately Mark Cavendish had his crash [in the prologue] and the focus shifted to me.” Twisted SPoke thinks Renshaw is enjoying that focus.

Renshaw’s stated goal this season was to win some sprints for himself so mission accomplished. Cavendish has another reason to train mark because the other Mark just stepped up a level. Heinrich Haussler said as much yesterday: “Mark’s getting stronger each year and I think he’s at a stage where he’s probably going to start to go for more races for himself.”

That’s the big news from the Middle East. President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt is out and Sheik Renshaw of Qatar is in. As revered Arabic cycling journalist Abdul Al Salaam said at the finish in Doha, “A man without a bike in the desert is like a camel with three humps.” Yes, of course.

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